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Steele Canyon High course fosters tough conversations in classroom

Posted at 6:16 PM, Jun 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 15:26:56-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A local high school teacher is using her classroom to foster conversations about social justice. In light of recent events, the community has stepped in to make sure the talks continue.

Racism, diversity, and inclusion are just some of the words that sit on Jennifer Koller's vocabulary wall inside of her Steele Canyon High School classroom. Three years ago, she decided a class with those topics were needed for her students.

"The course was designed after years of watching the kids disconnect from the curriculum that didn't feel relevant to them," says Koller.

With materials found at Teaching Tolerance, an aid for educators, it allowed her to shape the Literature and Social Justice course.

It starts with identity, it moves to diversity, has justice, and ends with action," says Koller. "The last unit is when students really get to pick their own social justice issue and educate their classmates on something that's near and dear to their hearts."

Recent Steele Canyon graduate, Tia Saunders, took Ms. Koller's course. She says it allowed students to have tough conversations, like race, with each other.

"It gave us all a chance to really just see everybody's side and truly pick whatever you want to do and understand why everybody thinks the way that they do," says Saunders.

Koller says after seeing the recent events around San Diego and the country, following the death of George Floyd, she reached out to the community for help getting new anti-racism books for the class. The books were fully funded in less than two days.

"I feel my step into this next is to foster more intense and courageous conversations about race," says Koller. "I just wanted to start the new school year with ultimately the most relevant and interesting materials for the kids in my class."

Students taking the Literature and Social Justice course will receive high school credit and credit towards admission to CSU and University of California schools.